Western wolf delisting looms

This article says it may be Feb. 28, but I just heard it will be tomorrow.

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express.

I see what might appear to be two rival strategies emerging among conservation groups to deal with delisting. In fact, I think this might be a good idea even though it will leave some bruised feelings, but more about that when I learn more.

One other item, Montana set up the details of a wolf hunting season today (as expected). Reaction to the details are still coming in.


Regarding the Mountain Express article above, I have to take issue with the reporter’s statement that the reintroduced wolf population in the 3 state area grew by “leaps and bounds” from 66 wolves to 1500.

It was 12 years. If deer, elk, jackrabbits, fox, etc. had been reintroduced into good habitat and protected, would 66 to 1500 in 12 years be considered “leaps and bounds,” “remarkable,” or any of the common terms many writers use? Wolves are short-lived species capable fast reproduction, but also quick depopulation if a pup year fails or the habitat declines.

If a long-lived species like humans, elephants, or tortoises had grown from 66 to 1500, that might be “leaps and bounds.”



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Considering the degree to which wolves have been controlled all through the GYE and central Idaho for livestock depredations–the worst legacy of the 10j designation–we’re lucky to have gotten up to 1500. It’s going to be tough to achieve and maintain a viable population if delisting succeeds. I don’t think it can be done. Wyoming and Idaho need to go back to the drawing board and start over.

    I assume, Ralph, that you’ll be linking to the FR notice as soon as it is posted. Thanks ahead of time.

  2. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I would argue that the *best* legacy of the 10(j) rule was that it allowed the reintroduction to occur at all and part of the success of the reintroduction was the result of social and political acceptance of wolves that resulted from the ability to control them. I don’t think this would have been been the case if the small population of recolonizing wolves was left to its own devices, albeit with full ESA protection.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You might be right, Matt.

    This was debated before reintroduction. At the time I agreed with you and probably still do.

    The alternative point of is, of course, that a slow wolf restoration, rather than fast, would have built acceptance.

    The very strict rules that would have accompanied slow, but full ESA protection of wolves, would have allowed many other good objectives to be accomplished in the meantime and would have prevented the emergence of the idea that wolves are abundant, when relatively speaking, even today they are not common in most of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming compared to bears and cougars.

    The facts are a majority of people think that wolves are highly abundant when the 3-state population is really restricted to an interstate area about the size of only Idaho with no restoration in adjacent states.

  4. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Very good and relevant counterpoint on the acceptance of a slowly growing population, Ralph. It is still and interesting discussion to have (and remarkable that we can have it) given the situation we are in today.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I strongly disagree with the above positive assessments of the 10j reintroduction. It has not “improved” public acceptance of wolves, certainly not in Wyoming and Idaho, and worse, it has created a now institutionally-entrenched bias toward lethal wolf control rather than non-lethal methods.

    The big winner in Wyoming from 10j-approved practices has been Wildlife Services, which is just dying to get hold of the $6 million that the Wyoming legislature set aside for wolf control a couple of years ago.

    Hell, while I was in hunting camp in October, WS whacked 4 wolves in the East Fork for killing a couple of cows a local dude ranch keeps for dudes to chase around on horseback.

    I would also argue that intensive wolf control has kept many wolf packs in social disruption, which has ironically contributed to livestock depredation, not attenuated it.

    Finally, the now entrenched lethal control management system will be the primary means of obstructing the functioning of a wolf metapopulation in the recovery areas, which is one of the requirements of the Final Rule for delisting (see App. 11 of the FEIS). The clear intent of the Wyoming and Idaho plans to obstruct the metapopulation is one reason why delisting is illegal.


  6. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Well, Robert, you’re entitled to your opinion! Notice I said nothing about the notion that it may have created the entrenched position that lethal control is the first option. That is clearly the case as can be seen from reading Idaho’s wolf population management plan. I can’t cite any statistics about the social and political acceptance, but I think there are folks who would say (I have heard them say it) that the flexible policy has allowed them to see that they can live with wolves if they are allowed to deal with them. I think this is a reasonable position that has the potential to be abused, which is why vigilance as we move toward delisting is key…


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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